I feel like most people have heard some version of the story where there are two people who take different career paths-- one leaves highschool to become a doctor, goes through 10 years of intense schooling, wracks up hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt but then ends up with a high paying career and has paid off their debt and made a million dollars within another 10 years. Conversely, the other person becomes a carpenter right out of highschool, and is earning money and is debt free every year for 20 years, their income increases over that time period but doesn't reach the same yearly salary as the doctor, but they both end up with 1 million dollars after 20 years.

So my question is, given average annual salary (after accounting for debts incurred and years of schooling required), in a field that one could plausibly end up in (i.e., no NBA basketball stars or professional lottery winners), what occupation would have you earning 1 million dollars in the shortest period of time?

I feel like I have seen similar questions before and the answers tend to suggest that becoming an entrepreneur, writer, or day trader are all good routes-- but these are all careers with a significant degree of survivorship bias where we only hear about the people who make it, and not the many people who fail and drop out. I'm specifically looking for careers where we have employment statistics to support the conclusions.

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    No definitive answer IMHO. A great welder can make more than a bad lawyer. It all depends on what you're good at, what you like to do, and where you live.
    – D Stanley
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 15:51
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    This sounds like "What jobs pay the most?" just with extra steps.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 18:16
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    @JohnFx Yeah. The extra steps are kind of the whole point of the question though.
    – Dugan
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 18:55
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    @Duhan some people don't understand statistics. Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 8:43

1 Answer 1


There are several jobs that might reliably average $100k annually over the first ten years after college - software engineer, military officer, etc.

To beat these folks to $1 million in earnings, you would want a job that can do the same for the first ten years out of high school. Long-haul team trucking comes to mind, so that is my best guess as the fastest reliable way to $1 million in earnings. (Don't spend it all in one place).

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